When COVID-19 shutdown schools last March, Cajon Valley USD immediately began planning for what schools would look like when it could reopen. The district began offering free child care for essential workers in April, one of the only districts to do so, said Superintendent David Miyashiro. “In order to do that, we had to set up our site,” he said. “That experience led to offering our free summer learning and enrichment to all of our students during the summer — about a third of our kids came back for that, about 6,500 students.”
The San Diego County school district with more than 17,000 students is now open for all students who would like to participate in in-person learning, which nearly 70 percent have chosen to do as of mid-October. Miyashiro said that open, two-way communication is key to ensuring all stakeholders, from teachers and staff to families, feel comfortable that they will be safe. The summer program allowed the district to put protocols into action and see what works. “In addition to the 6,500 kids, we also had about 1,200 staff, teachers and classified come back to the school site to help facilitate and run the program,” he said. “We used that as a feedback and an input tool to help us improve.”
All students, whether through distance or in-person learning, have worked with their teachers and classroom assistants on comprehensive diagnostic assessments and computer adaptive tools for goal setting and progress monitoring. Personalized and blended learning has been in place since 2014 in the district. In-person learning models are decided depending on school size and the percentage of students who would like to participate. Some schools can accommodate all students five days a week, but many are implementing hybrid schedules to accommodate COVID-19 safety measures.
Napa Valley USD reopened schools with a hybrid schedule in late October and have reported that less than 1 percent of COVID-19 transmissions have been linked to schools. Giving district students and families the choice to return in person or continue with distance learning, about half of students returned to classrooms in October, with all safety precautions in place. The data collected by the district so far shows that those who have opted to return in person are faring better academically than those in distance learning. The board engaged its student member to conduct focus groups with students representing elementary, middle and high schools to gauge what students need to improve their distance learning experience. Based on feedback from these groups, the district identified the asynchronous learning time as when they were losing student attention. As a result, the district is working to transition away from asynchronous learning entirely and implementing simultaneous teaching, where half the cohort is in the classroom and the other is watching the lesson in real time from home. The goal is to have kids in class in one form or another, fully engaged, from 8:10 a.m.–2:50 p.m.